Thursday, 27 October 2022

Pharmacy and poisons talk online

 Recently our local U3A group asked me to give a talk on my work cataloguing the contents of Dow's.

If you are interested I've put the presentation online

as well as my speakers notes

Saturday, 15 October 2022

Linux, desktops and pervasive internet and offline documentation and research

 A week or so ago I blogged about how I believed that desktop linux was never going to be a thing.

Well, I still stand by that argument but this morning I read an article that made the argument that as windows becomes more and more reliant on the cloud, linux was the only way to go if you needed a standalone desktop operating system.

And that got me thinking. 

Over the five years I've worked on the Dow's documentation project there's been a bit of drift and increasing dependence on cloud based services, and while it's possible to revert to the original 2017 methodology when needed, it's definitely the case that it's easier to stick with the 2022 cloud based methodology if at all possible.

Let's say I was to start a new documentation and recording project, and it was based somewhere without good internet. And while it's true that the 2022 methodology can be run over a  decent 4G connection, it's certainly the case that there's plenty of places in rural and regional Australia where 4G coverage is less than stellar.

So, as a thought experiment, could you run the original 2017 methodology on Kubuntu?

  • Much of the recording is done via spreadsheets. Libre Office Calc is highly compatible with excel as I found when I had to use a machine without excel when I dropped coffee on my work machine
  • Firefox is perfectly compatible with OneDrive meaning that data can be uploaded at the end of the working day
  • The OneNote web clipper works well with Firefox, meaning that if one had minimal internet it would still be possible to research and document objects
  • And of course there is no problem saving a copy of the data to external drive of some sort as a work in progress backup during the working day.
The only real problem would be when one had to check against existing information held in OneNote or on OneDrive - if one really had minimal internet - it would probably be a case of accumulating notes, either on paper or a text files and then working through them, either at home, or perhaps at a local public library at the end of the day.

Applications like CherryTree or Notable, while not compatible with OneNote or Evernote mean that you could store your local notes in a structured manner making them easier to work through.

So. yes, if poor internet made using a Windows machine problematical, I reckon that one could run something very similar to the original 2017 methodology using Kubuntu (or indeed any other well provisioned Linux distribution.)

It's worth noting that when I started the project I basically made up the methodology myself in the absence of any documentation or guidance.

It's based in the main on the various conversations I've had with botanists and archaeologists over the years, not to mention my own rather dated experience in running botanical field surveys in Wales in the 1980's.

However, based on this instagram post from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Victoria, not a lot has changed

giving me confidence that the methodology could be applied to other quite different field recording projects, and probably also family history research.

As I have said elsewhere, I'm a great believer in eating one's own dogfood, and while I'm quietly confident it would be a viable solution I need to try it out for real on a little side project ...

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Why we'll never see linux in common use on the desktop


Desktop linux.

Never really happened has it?

And while I’m an enthusiastic proponent of linux, I’ve got to admit I use a Windows PC most of the time these days.

And of course, the reason why I use a windows pc instead of a Linux based one is because something like 85-90% of the pc’s in daily use run windows in some form, which means a well supported range of robust software. Basically Windows works and it lets me do what I want to do. (And there’s no OneNote or Evernote client for linux).

The rest of the pc’s out there are either chromebooks or Macs.

And as we know there are 57 varieties of desktop linux, something that doesn’t help as it means there are 57 ways of doing something, like do I start a program via the launcher menu, or do I have to right click on the desktop. Basically it’s confusing.

It’s telling that those projects to deploy linux in education in Brazil and Argentina have standardized on a single distribution and in the case of Argentina, producing their own.

Standardize on a single distribution and documentation and support becomes easier, and you build a community of knowledge – and that’s important because people can then ask each other.

And even though actually most people’s interaction with computers is via the web these days there’s a hard nub of difficult problems.

Our local U3A runs a series of workshops for older citizens. Overwhelmingly the problems people have can be categorized as

  • How do I set up a Zoom session
  • How do I upload this photo of my drivers licence to the government services website
  • How do I download this pdf receipt and file it (or upload it to Medicare)

All simple tasks, and one that can be shown simply to people because we know they have chrome, they have acrobat, they have a standard mail client or use webmail.

Try it with linux? The 57 varieties problem will get you.

Yet there are advantages in using linux. It extends the life of hardware, and there are none of these pesky license costs – something which in these days of Google Workspace is less of an issue than it once was.

But basically apart from a few wierdos and enthusiasts like me it isn’t going to happen simply as the effort is simply too great in support time.


Monday, 3 October 2022

jPilot updates

 Back in June I wrote about how I'd resurrected one of my old palm Pilots as a documentation aid.

Well that's working well, but my old thinkpad decided to barf on the Ubuntu 22.04 upgrade, so I took the opportunity to wipe it and do a clean install - which worked.

This of course meant I had to reinstall jpilot.

Doing this I discovered that jPilot now has a PPA for Debian and Ubuntu, making installation a breeze

Curl was missing from my initial kubuntu 22.04 installation so first of all I installed curl

sudo apt-get install curl

then ran the jpilot repository install script

curl -s | sudo bash
sudo apt install jpilot jpilot-plugins
For some reason the script installed the repository fine, but the app didn't install. (Probably incompetence or finger trouble on my part)
A manual install command fixed that
sudo apt-get install jpilot
and it just worked! Running jpilot as sudo I was able to do a backup of my palm pilot without any additional fiddling. Quietly impressed

Sunday, 2 October 2022

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet continued

 Back at the end of August I blogged about how I'd bought myself a Lenovo IdeaPad Duet. A month on I'm even more impressed with the device.

Android support is really good, meaning that you can run the BOM weather app or the Qantas app in a little container, valuable given the fact that Bureau of Meteorology's website looks like it hasn't been updated since 1996, and Qantas's website is a maze of twisty passages, all different.

Coupled with this is a feature that I only discovered thanks to my cat. 

He likes to sit on my lap, meaning I couldn't use the duet in keyboard mode, so without thinking I folded back the keyboard, and hey presto! I had a chrome based tablet with the web page I was reading in full screen mode.

Very impressive, and something that frees you from the need to carry a tablet as well as a keyboard based device ...

Scribe, elipsa and remarkable


Back at the end of July, I blogged that I suspected that there would soon be some competition for the Remarkable 2.

Well I’ve been proven right by the announcement of both

·       Amazon Kindle Scribe
·       Kobo Elipsa

I’ll be clear here. I havn’t played with any of the devices, I’ve only read the reviews, and this is all second hand. But as an inveterate note taker I’m interested in the devices and their capabilities.

Both cost around the same, and are at something close to the same price point as the Remarkable 2 (ignoring any ongoing subscription costs). Both are essentially e-readers that allow annotation and which have the capability of allowing you to not only annotate existing documents but to create collections of your own hand written notes.

Of the two, on paper at least, the Kindle scribe is the device that seems to give the remarkable a run for its money – essentially the Scribe lets you work with more formats (good) but locks you into only being able to use Amazon storage. The Remarkable is currently limited to pdf and epub, but allows you to work with OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox.

The elipsa seems to sit somewhere in between, not as many formats but more open than the Scribe.

But all have a drawback – no OneNote or Evernote integration.

If you work with a lot of material, such as family history, you probably already have a lot of information like birth certificates, church registers etc stored and filed away (shades of Nennius and his great heap ). 

I do, and I have even more in connection with the Dow’s documentation project, not to mention various little side projects of my own.

And I use Evernote and OneNote. Why I use both is a valid question – basically Dow’s is Microsoft only, hence OneNote.

I used only to use Evernote, but I must admit I have warmed to OneNote over the years, and it's possibly slightly better as a research tool.

So what one would really like would be the capability to both extract and save notes to both.

Neither seem to do this. OneNote is notoriously uncommunicative, Evernote lets you save notes and documents via email and email notes to co-workers, meaning that you could at least use this feature to send notes to the Scribe via ‘send to Kindle’.

With the Remarkable and the Elipsa you are probably looking with saving a copy to a supported file service such as Dropbox or OneDrive, and saving your back to the file service and then manually back into Evernote or OneDrive. Clumsy, but doable.

The Scribe seems to lock you into Amazon which is going to make life problematic, which is a pity as it seems to be potentially a very useful device.

So, if I was buying one tomorrow it would be a toss up between the Elipsa and the Remarkable.

However, I’m not buying one tomorrow and things will change and we might see an improvement in integration capabilities ..